ESET vs Avast - Which is best (1)

Both ESET and Avast are leading antivirus providers and it can be difficult to choose between them at first glance without digging a little deeper into what pros and cons each product offer. In this review, I will examine each of these top brands to see which performs better in independent benchmarking tests and offers the best additional features. all

If you don’t have enough time to read my full comparison of both products, I can reveal that ESET is my preferred pick thanks to easy to use interface, excellent benchmarking scores in antivirus tests, and lower pricing for the top tier product.

To get started comparing ESET and Avast in more detail, I looked at many of the most important aspects for users when choosing an antivirus product. For my comparison, I am using each provider’s top tier product, ESET Smart Security Premium and Avast Ultimate. Here’s what I found in my ESET v Avast comparison:

Summary: ESET vs Avast

ESET

  • Performed well in antivirus lab testing
  • Good scores in offline detection
  • 0 False positives in latest independent tests
  • Webcam Control
  • Anti-theft feature

Avast

  • Excellent scores in online malware detection tests
  • Ransomware protection
  • Simple installation process
  • File Shredder
  • VPN
FeatureESET Smart Security PremiumAvast Ultimate
Antivirus and Antispyware
Firewall
Webcam Protection
Password Manager
Anti-Phishing✔ (Separate download)
Antispam✔ (Separate download)
Ransomware Shield
Banking and Payment Protection
Parental Control
Gamer Mode
UEFI Scanner
Anti-Theft
Network Attack Protection
Botnet Protection
Connected Home Monitor
Secure Data Encryption
Automatically update apps
VPN
File shredder
File Cleanup
Sandbox suspicious apps

With both ESET and Avast scoring well in lab tests it’s hard to separate the two on tests alone. However, with Avast recently being reported to be selling user data I feel much happier trusting ESET to guard my privacy and security online.

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Background

Avast is based in the Czech Republic with its headquarters in Prague. The company is an established name in multinational cybersecurity software. It researches and develops computer security software as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence programs. There has been some recent controversy around Avast collecting user data and selling it through one of its subsidiaries, not what you would expect from a program designed to protect you online.

Also based in Eastern Europe, ESET was founded in Bratislava, Slovakia. ESET has been around since 1992 and the company has won many awards for their products. ESET has a large range of antivirus and computer security programs in its inventory, all of which have been highly lauded by security market critics.

Pricing & Compatibility

At the time of writing ESET offers a free basic version of its software plus 3 paid product tiers:

As the tables above show, even the cheapest version of Avast is more expensive than the top tier product in the ESET line up.

Avast offer a 30-day free trial on their two lower tiered products, but there’s no free trial available on Avast Ultimate. ESET offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product.

I have taken advantage of both these offers in the past when reviewing Avast and ESET products and I can confirm both companies do honor their money back policies should you ask them to cancel the subscription within the stated time period.

It’s worth noting that Avast’s multi-device option costs $89.99 for up to 10 devices. This is a good option for busy households with lots of devices to cover. By comparison, the mid-range offer from ESET can cover five devices for the same price ($89.99) but costs $139.99 to cover 10 devices.

Both ESET and Avast offer compatibility with Windows PCs, Android and iOS devices, and MacOS.

Effectiveness against malware

To test the effectiveness of both ESET and Avast antivirus products against malware, I installed both products on my own PC and ran malware tests. The first test I performed was a real-time test that pro-actively looks for malware threats in the background while you are using the PC without waiting for a scan to be run manually or for the scheduled scan time.

For the second test, I turned off real-time protection and used multiple sample malware test files from EICAR (The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research) on the machine.

I also tested out both the quick scan option if available, and the full scan to see what differences there were. Finally, in addition to my own research, I took a look at the test results from the leading independent antivirus test lab AV-Comparatives.  Here are the results.

The table below shows the results of both antivirus products when tested with 4 different Eicar samples, plus 3 live samples that were tested contained adware and trojans.

Test FileEicar Sample 1Eicar Sample 2Eicar Sample 3Eicar Sample 4Live Sample 1 (Adware)Live Sample 2 (Trojan)Live Sample 3 (Trojan)
ESETBlockedBlockedBlockedBlockedBlockedBlockedBlocked
AvastAllowedAllowedAllowedAllowedBlockedBlockedBlocked

ESET Successfully detected and deleted all files in real-time and blocked all 4 Eicar samples.

Avast allowed the Eicar samples when downloaded over HTTPS, but blocked them on HTTP. Avast also deleted all live samples.

ESET does not have a quick scan option, which would not scan the full system but just look at the most common areas targeted by malware on a device, so this could not be tested.

I was able to test the quick scan feature with Avast, called Smart Scan and it found no threats, compared to the full scan which found all threats (Eicar and live samples).

AV-Comparatives’ latest round of its Malware Protection Test took place in September 2019. Both companies’ antivirus software scored well in the testing with Avast performing slightly better in online detection and protection rates, while ESET scored better for offline protection. ESET recorded zero false positives compared to seven false positives recorded by Avast. False positives occur when the antivirus incorrectly flags a non-malware file or process as malware.

The total online protection rates make Avast the top performer in the September 2019 round of testing, while ESET ranked middle compared to other leading antivirus brands. ESET was compromised 12 times while Avast was not compromised at all.

The false positives test, in contrast, shows ESET as the joint top performer of all antivirus software tested in September 2019, while Avast ranked in the middle.

False positives are an important consideration when choosing an antivirus software because false results cause alarm and hinder how well users can use their machines. If apps or other files are wrongly labeled as malware it can affect productivity.

Impact on PC performance

A major factor most users care about (including myself!) is the impact the antivirus software has on PC speed and performance. To compare the impact of both ESET and Avast, I looked at some data while the software was running on my PC.

Test TypeControl CPU Utilization %
(no scan)
Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)Control Disk Utilization (seconds) (no scan)
ESET326317
Avast327228

The impact on PC resources without running a scan is identical for CPU utilization for both programs, with Avast using more control memory and control disk utilization.

Test TypeFull Scan CPU Utilization %Full Scan Memory Utilization %Full Scan Disk Utilization (seconds)Full Scan Time (minutes)Full Scan # Items Scanned
ESET687051068930000
Avast42735801601870000

When it comes to impact when running a full scan ESET utilizes more CPU than Avast with 68% to 42%.

Memory utilization is closer with just a 3% difference between the two programs. ESET scores 70% while Avast uses 73%. ESET takes slightly longer than Avast to complete a full scan, completing the task in 68 minutes compared to 60 minutes for Avast.

Test Type Quick Scan CPU Utilization % Quick Scan Memory Utilization % Quick Scan Disk Utilization % Quick Scan Time (seconds)
ESET N/A N/A N/A N/A
Avast 90 72 300 146

The AV-Comparatives Performance Test measures the impact of the antivirus on speed and PC performance during a number of tasks. This includes:

  • File copying
  • Archiving / unarchiving
  • Installing / uninstalling applications
  • Launching applications
  • Downloading files
  • Browsing websites

The results of the test conducted in October 2019 show both ESET and Avast scored top marks in five of the six categories ranked as “very fast.” Only the first run of launching applications failed to score top marks, but even this was ranked as fast.

When it comes to performance, my tests and the independent lab results show there is no clear winner between the two antivirus products. I also found similar results with my own tests, and using the PC to carry out tasks while a full scan was in progress. Both programs felt light on system impact. I was able to perform a number of tasks including browsing the web and launching apps while an antivirus scan was running in the background.

Features

Aside from the antivirus engine itself, both companies bundle a number of extra features with the top tier software packages to enhance the security of your PC.

ESET Smart Security Premium 

  • Antivirus and Antispyware
  • Anti-Phishing
  • Gamer Mode
  • Exploit Blocker
  • UEFI Scanner
  • Cloud-Powered Scanning
  • Small System Footprint
  • Script-Based Attack Protection
  • Ransomware Shield
  • Free Support in Local Language
  • License Manager
  • Banking and Payment Protection
  • Personal Firewall
  • Antispam
  • Network Attack Protection
  • Botnet Protection
  • Parental Control
  • Webcam Protection
  • Connected Home Monitor
  • Anti-Theft (Windows only feature)
  • Password Manager
  • Secure Data

Avast Ultimate 

  • Block viruses and other malware
  • Scan for Wi-Fi security weaknesses
  • Secure your passwords
  • Avoid fake sites for safer shopping
  • Safely run suspicious apps in Sandbox
  • Lock out hackers with an advanced firewall
  • Block annoying spam and phishing emails (Separate download required)
  • Get an extra layer of ransomware security
  • Stop webcam spying
  • Permanently shred sensitive files
  • Automatically update apps
  • Avast Cleanup Premium
  • Avast SecureLine VPN
  • Avast Passwords Premium

Many of the additional features can be found in both antivirus products including firewalls, password managers, and network security scanners, but there are also quite a few unique tools for each brand. It’s also worth mentioning that ESET offers more additional features than Avast. One other thing to note is that Avast requires you to download separate software to block spam and phishing emails, which is slightly annoying although it is free.

Which you find most useful depends on your personal needs. I will take a look at some of the standout benefits of each:

ESET

Gamer mode – ESET’s Gamer mode is a handy feature which can identify when other software programs are running in full-screen mode, suggesting that the PC is being used for gaming or watching a movie.  In this mode ESET minimizes interruptions and maximizes PC performance.

Anti-Theft (Windows) – This feature helps you track and locate your laptop in case it goes missing as a result of a loss or theft, but it is only currently available on Windows devices.

UEFI Scanner – Many antivirus products do not reach the motherboard’s UEFI,  (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), a program that manages the PC boot up process. ESET scores extra points here because it is designed to detect any changes to the UEFI and can warn the user and pause the boot up process.

Parental Control – ESET includes a parental control feature so you can monitor and manage access to the internet and restrict certain content from children. This saves extra expense buying standalone parental control. Avast does not include free parental control in its offering.

Avast

Scan for Wi-Fi security weaknesses – Find intruders and security weaknesses in your network such as a weak router password. This tool also checks both home and public wifi for strangers piggybacking on your network and fixes any issues.

Safely run suspicious apps in Sandbox – Sandbox any app to test if it’s safe before running it on your computer. This will contain any malicious apps before they wreak havoc on your PC.

Permanently shred sensitive files – Securely delete files to ensure that no one recovers them. This works by overwriting files with meaningless data multiple times before deleting them so they can’t be recovered.

Automatically update apps – Reduces security risks by keeping your other apps up-to-date without any gaps in between that leave them vulnerable to hackers or other security threats.

Avast SecureLine VPNA VPN offers good additional security tool to encrypt your internet connection for safe and private browsing.

Sign up & Installation

Signing up for Avast Ultimate was straightforward with a simple billing form that asks for just a few details. Downloading the installation file took just a few minutes to complete and running the installation and performing a first scan took about 15 minutes, but I was able to minimize the scan window and keep working on my PC with no interruptions.

ESET only require basic information such as your name and address and your card payment details during sign up.

The Windows installer file took less than a minute to download and then I was able to start the installation process. Once I reached the app interface, I also needed to update the product to enable real-time malware and threat protection. This seemed to take quite a while and I left it to update in the background for around 10 minutes.

How easy is the interface to use?

ESET has a fresh interface with a clear layout. The home screen features a banner that tells you the status of the system. A green banner lets you know everything is safe and secure, while if a scan should find issues a yellow bar will display alerting you to take a look. This status bar will turn red if the system is under attack.

The menu has a simple layout with main categories listed along the left side of the window making it easy to access the most important settings.

Avast uses a minimal design that looks really nice and clear. The main screen lets you run a smart scan for weak passwords, vulnerable software, networks, and browser addons, alongside a virus scan. Other shortcuts marked with clear icons make it quick and easier to navigate to pages on Performance, Privacy, and Protection.

Customer Support

Avast offers Premium Tech Support via phone that will help you solve any problem at any time by remotely accessing your PC, but it’s not included with your subscription. It comes with quite a hefty cost of $79.99 for a one-off simple fix, $119.00 for a complex fix, and $199.00 for unlimited calls for a year. There’s also a FAQ and an online academy where you can learn about online threats.

ESET provides a help section to access all support documentation or request further help from customer support.  This includes email support, live chat, a knowledge base and user guides. There’s also a FAQ and help with installation and setup if required.

Overall ESET seems to offer more options for support. The live chat option is easy to find and the quickest and most direct way to get help with a problem at no cost.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I have found pros and cons for both Avast and ESET. Avast scores as a top performer in the antivirus industry for online threats in the most recent tests from independent labs, but allowed the 4 Eicar samples in my tests, while ESET blocked all samples in my test, scoring higher for offline detection and recorded fewer false positives.

Avast is also not without recent controversy after reports found it sold sensitive user data to third parties.

Looking at the wider picture, ESET offers good value in a number of areas including the annual subscription price for its top tier product, which is $40 cheaper than the comparable product on offer from Avast. For users looking to protect more than five devices, Avast might work out cheaper.

When it comes to additional features and customer support, I give the edge to ESET and make them my overall winner due to them offering more features and including things like parental controls, UEFI protection and Anti-Theft for Windows PCs.

See also: McAfee vs Norton